The Philadelphia 76ers go for a sixth straight win when they visit the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Toyota Center in Houston.
Philadelphia has moved atop the Eastern Conference standings with its five-game winning streak at 44-21. The 76ers are 1½ games ahead of the second-place Brooklyn Nets and three ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, who are in third place.
Houston has long since been eliminated from playoff contention and has lost two straight. The Rockets are 16-49 — including an 8-26 record at home — and last in the Western Conference standings, four games behind the 14th-place Minnesota Timberwolves.
BetUS Sportsbook lists the 76ers as 13-point favorites on the road for this one, with the over/under set at 223½.
Making Their Move
The 76ers have been in the mix for the top spot in the Eastern Conference for much of the season, but they’re getting hot at just the right time. Philadelphia has a 25-7 record at home, so securing the top spot and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs would be a big boost to the team’s title chances.
Center Joel Embiid has been in the league MVP conversation, averaging 29.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. He is coming off a 13-point, 10-rebound performance in a win over Chicago on Monday, the third time in the last four games that he’s finished with under 20 points.
Forward Tobias Harris has been a reliable second scorer for the 76ers, averaging 19.7 points along with 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Harris had just six points in 36 minutes of playing time in a win over San Antonio on Sunday but bounced back with a team-high 21 in the win over Chicago.
Guard Ben Simmons has made an impact on both ends of the floor, with talk of him being Defensive Player of the Year continuing to gain momentum. Simmons is averaging 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.7 steals, tying for third in the league.
The Houston offense has been extremely inconsistent, but the last three games have been a microcosm. After racking up 143 points in a win over Milwaukee on Thursday — powered by Kevin Porter Jr.’s 50 points — the Rockets have averaged 92 points over the last two games.
Porter has scored a total of 30 points since his career-high outburst against the Bucks, though he did average six assists in the two losses. Porter is averaging 16.6 points and 6.4 assists per game in his 25 appearances with Houston, which signed him after he was released by Cleveland earlier in the season.
Center Christian Wood has been a presence inside for the Rockets, averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game in his first season in Houston. Wood will need to be at his best against Embiid, though he said over the weekend that he’s dealing with quad and ankle soreness.
“I just want to compete,” Wood said about dealing with injuries. “If I can walk, then I can go. But, as the end of the season is starting to wind down, I have to be smart and take care of my body.”
Forward Kelly Olynyk came to the Rockets in a midseason trade with Miami and has averaged 18.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in 21 games with Houston. Olynyk is a threat from the 3-point line as well as driving to the basket, though he also needs to work on his consistency.
Although they won the game, the 76ers did not impress in beating the Bulls on Monday. Coach Doc Rivers will be all over his team to play better, which is not good news for the Rockets.
Philadelphia can see the top seed in the East as a reachable goal, so it can’t look past a team like the Rockets, which showed their potential if they get hot with last week’s win over Milwaukee. The 76ers’ defense bears down in this one and keeps Houston’s offense in check.
When making your NBA betting picks, take the 76ers to win and cover on the road.
Pick: Philadelphia 76ers -13 (-110)